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Give Bangsamoro law a chance, voters told

Leaders say opposition to new region fueled by rumors, wrong info
BANGSAMORO SUPPORT Thousands gather at the Mindanao State University campus in Marawi City to show their support for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. —RICHEl V. UMEL

BANGSAMORO SUPPORT Thousands gather at the Mindanao State University campus in Marawi City to show their support for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. —RICHEL V. UMEL

ISABELA CITY, BASILAN—Although sentiment against the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is reportedly dominant in this Christian majority city, the recent turnout in an interfaith dialogue to discuss the creation of a new region in Muslim Mindanao speaks otherwise.

Several residents expressed hope that those opposing BOL would still open their minds as thousands of those expected to reject the law joined the forum held at the Basilan National High School gymnasium here last week.

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“I know that Isabeleños are against BOL, and they don’t want to be part of the new Bangsamoro government, but I am really surprised to see this number of Christian people attending the forum,” said engineer Munim Asmawil, a resident of Barangay Menzi here.

Asmawil said Isabela residents usually ignored gatherings related to BOL.

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“This is the first time I witnessed more people listening intently. It’s a good sign,” he said, citing the crowd that filled the 3,000-seat gym, with many spilling out to the streets.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had set the campaign period for the ratification of BOL, or Republic Act No. 11054 (Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or BARMM), from Dec. 7, 2018, to Jan. 19.

There will be two dates for voting: Jan. 21 for voters in the Autonomus Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, and
Feb. 6 for Lanao del Norte province (except Iligan City), six towns in North Cotabato province and other areas that petitioned for inclusion in the future Bangsamoro region.

The Comelec earlier said the separate dates for the plebiscite would allow time for the full resolution of petitions for voluntary inclusion in the plebiscite.

Inclusive

Marissa dela Cruz, a teacher and resident of Barangay Lanote, said she would support BOL even if many in her family opposed it.

“I am frequenting Lamitan City, which used to be far behind Isabela City when it comes to development. Now, Lamitan is perking up,” she said.

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She believed that development in the new region would be inclusive and would not discriminate between Muslims and Christians.

Lucia Kadil, a housewife, said she attended the forum because barangay officials asked her to give BOL a chance.

“[But] I am [still] afraid to be part of Bangsamoro,” she said. “I am Muslim by marriage but I prefer Christian leaders in the city,” Kadil said in Chavacano.

She admitted, though, that her fear stemmed from the violence that she experienced in Basilan province.

Change of heart

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, the archbishop of Cotabato City, said most of those opposing the BOL were political leaders and not their constituents.

The fear, he said, stemmed mostly from misinformation.

“[The fear was] due to [some] misinformation about the BOL. Most of it are rumors against the BOL. The more people know about the BOL, [the more likely that] those who are against [it] now would change their minds,” Quevedo said.

He said there might be a change of heart because of the overwhelming number of Isabeleños who attended the BOL forum.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the ARMM said rumors like the destruction of crosses, closing of churches, banning of pork and enforcing the use of “hijab” (headdress) among women had spread across this Basilan provincial capital.

“In Sumisip [town], we have two barangays dominated by Christians—they have piggeries there, they have Churches there and people enjoy religious freedom,” Hataman said, noting that Sumisip is part of ARMM.

“Lamitan City is one big example. It is a Christian majority city in Basilan, where religious freedom is respected. Anti-BOL [groups] are capitalizing on these rumors,” he said.

Support

In Marawi City, Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said he was moved by the support for BOL after about 15,000 people packed the Mindanao State University’s (MSU) Dimaporo gymnasium during the Dec. 22 BOL forum.

OVERWHELMED Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, says he is overwhelmed by support shown by the people of Lanao del Sur and Marawi City for the creation of a new Bangsamoro region. —RICHEL V. UMEL

OVERWHELMED Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, says he is overwhelmed by support shown by the people of Lanao del Sur and Marawi City for the creation of a new Bangsamoro region. RICHEL V. UMEL

“On my way to Marawi City from Maguindanao [province], I never saw one tarpaulin that said ‘No to BOL’; all I saw were ’Yes to BOL,’ a manifestation of your full support,” Murad told the crowd.

He said Marawi was close to his heart because it was at MSU where he studied engineering in 1965.

“I did not become an engineer, but I am proud to engineer the destiny of our people ‘inshallah’ (God willing),” Murad said.

Murad said the local governments of Marawi City and Lanao del Sur were the first to officially express their support for BOL.

“This would encourage other provinces like Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Basilan [to support BOL, too],” he said.

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